Joyce’s Araby

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Many critics of James Joys' "Araby" tale see it as an introduction to the harsh reality of life for an innocent young boy who has his first-ever messy love affair.

Crush on Magnan's Niece

According to Mary Hayden and John Brugaletta, the boy is drawn to the bazaar not because he intends to go there, but because he has a crush on Magnan's niece.

Feelings, Dreams, and Fantasies

He lavishes attention on her "magical name," even praising her as if she were God. Furthermore, his feelings, dreams, and fantasies for the girl seemed true to him.

Frustrations in Life

However, the young boy was frustrated by the realities of life including his uncle's delay to give him pocket money, his drunkenness, and the choices made by real older girls.

Primary Theme: Anguish

Additionally, these reviewers consider anguish as the primary theme in the narrative. It plays a key role in influencing his disillusioned boyhood memories, experiences, and upbringing.

Catholicism and Vanity

The young boy considers himself as a creature that is humbled and guided by vanity thus causing him to have a feeling of anger and pain. Having been brought up in the Catholic faith, he has a religious mindset. However, at the mention of the word "vanity," the commentators feel that it is the "mature man" who is narrating the story at this point and not the naive boy. First, they argue that the inexperienced boy is not in a position to criticize Catholicism since that is a moral judgment and goes beyond his feelings of despair in his dreams and romantic illusions.

Araby as a Moralistic Reflection

Therefore, the main protagonist in the "Araby" is the moralistic grown-up man who goes back in time when he was a young lad. He now considers all his adolescent desires for happiness as well as love to have been in vain. On the contrary, such romantic feelings mean a lot to the youthful boy at that time. Further, the boy is not stern enough to judge himself as harshly as the late priest would give his verdict. On that note, the story's antagonist is thus the oppressive Dublin culture which presents the dreams and hopes of the young boy as sinful and foolish.

The Haunted Environment of Dublin

Further, the now sensitive narrator of "Araby" becomes bitter about the environment that he grew up in. He criticizes Dublin as a place that is haunted by religion and a valley of tears.

Jesuit Boarding School: A Prison

Also, the mature narrator points out that he was confined in the Jesuit boarding school which pictures the learning facility as a prison. He goes on to indicate ironically that the "Christian Brothers" would set the boys free an unfavorable time when playing does not bring any form of pleasure. As well, the narrator sarcastically states that the Dublin and its "somber houses" barred the dreams of the young boys not to realize their potential of leading a decent life.

Failing to Understand the Young Boy

Moreover, the narrator fails to put himself in the shoes of the young lad. If he had, the story-teller would appreciate the fact that when the young boy reads the three books belonging to the late priest, he should draw positive romantic and vicarious escape lessons from the readings. Instead, the narrator emphasizes on the lonely life of the churchman stating that he had no one to inherit his material possession except his sister and institutions. Secondly, the narrator seems to lament that he had so much lust or what he considers "confused adoration" for an older girl. He is disgusted with himself and wonders how he even made numerous secular attempts to living a life of pleasure and thus considers himself a decent man. Such justifications are opposed to the thinking of the young man in the story who was genuinely and innocently in love irrespective of the girl's age. Realistically, morality and romance mean the same thing to a boy.


In conclusion, "Araby" is a story of what transpired in the life of the sensitive, mature man and not the naive young boy. This narrator attempts to correct his past by criticizing his youthful desires. He tells the story from a perspective of a refugee who considers himself self-righteous and morally decent instead of showing the dreamy sensualist, and naive boy that he once was. He thus no longer believes in the beauty of feminism or hope and instead, focuses on judging what is right or wrong. Further, he seems to praise the just and boring life where children play in streets that are joyless and, girls cannot visit bazaars in order to attend to religious duties. As it turns out, the "Araby" portrays the boy as pitiable.

January 25, 2023



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